this is lemonade

A mindful, grateful, creative life: Life constantly hurls lemons at us. I’m on a mission to make lemonade as best I can, by God’s grace.


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International Women’s Day – Google Doodle

International Women's Day - Google Doodle

Happy International Women’s Day!

I don’t know whether you feel there is a lot to celebrate with regard to women’s standing in society where you are. In recent news, it has become all too apparent that in terms of equal rights, women do not enjoy the same status as other women all over the world, let alone the same status as men. Incidentally, let us also not forget the men. To my understanding, feminism is not about treading men underfoot, far from it.

Here are a couple of articles that caught my eye in today’s news videos that just go to show how important it is, that we don’t work separately but together, towards resolving all the issues we face:

I hope you don’t think I’m sharing these links flippantly, they are actually some issues I care about immensely that I do not wish to write about on the blog at the moment. Despite the effectiveness with which many people tackle deep and difficult issues online, it’s not something I can devote time and energy to doing properly right now.

Are you celebrating International Women’s Day? In the UK, it is followed directly by Mothering Sunday. Recently, I asked my mum to tell me a potted history of her life. I’ve listened, enchanted, to many stories over the years but this was the first time she told me some of the details and in one sitting. I have to say I am in even more admiration of her than I was before. She is a much more courageous woman than I have ever realised. I guess that I have been blessed with some very humble, inspiring and generous women in my life who have won out in spite of their circumstances. Who are (or have been) the important women in your life?

Weather Forecast London

Weather Forecast London

I have the news on right now. Emily Maitlis just handed over to the weatherman with the words “honestly, it looks revolting”. Nuff said. Hope you have some inner sunshine reserves for the weekend, even if it’s horrible, rainy, cloudy and cold outside.

Getting to know you!

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Snickers More Nuts Limited Edition

I don’t really eat chocolate bars. I find them too sweet. I’m a dark chocolate girl, so generally speaking, the chocolate bar section in the supermarket doesn’t draw me in. But this week, I found myself vulnerable whilst grocery shopping.

I was hungry.

And the power aisle snickered at me, grabbing me with a limited edition chocolate bar. “£1 only” for a pack of four More Nuts or More Caramel? D’uh. If I wanted more caramel, I’d buy a Mars Bar and I never do that of my own free will. So something in the pit of my stomach made me raise my hand to the shelf and put a pack of the above in my shopping trolley.

It’s the end of the week. Time to let go a little, raise a glass of the bubbly stuff. I wanted to thank you all for your support and encouragement. The week has been more than manageable punctuated with some really thoughtful comments at the ends of my posts that have really lifted me.  And seeing as we’re friends now (I hope I’m not being presumptuous), I was wondering… are you nuts like me or more nice and sweet? :)


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Awesome Planet

It’s been a crazy week so far. The weather goes without saying. But they say that full moons do things to people too. It’s only just got to the middle of the week, but I’ve come across too many people losing their cool this week, and getting unreasonable with others. It’s just inspiring to see the other end of the spectrum.

“Super Storm Sandy” as the media have now named it, has left so much devastation in its wake, it is quite humbling. A completely unstoppable force. However far human civilisation progresses, when it comes to nature, we can have nothing but respect. Watching footage of huge trees being completely uprooted by howling winds just leaves me awestruck. There has been such deep loss and destruction, but it is a mercy that we can see so much of that kind of footage – the fact that those trees fell onto the people’s cars who were filming and not onto them, is something to be thankful for.

Wind Map by Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg

Wind Map by Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg

I was introduced to this wonderful map yesterday, which has been created by the two leads of a Google research project. They specialise in creating visualisation graphics. The map is mesmerising and a clever way to visualise the force of the wind over North America. It helps me to  stop and remember just a little bit, how insignificant we humans are, in the context of this awesome planet. And by awesome, I do mean it literally. Especially yesterday!

We humans do need to remember our place. We are not in charge. We should not behave as though we think we are. When others do, I resolve to not mirror such attitudes in my own behaviour.

I hope that you and your loved ones are well. Take care and stay safe wherever you are in the world. Thank you for passing by today!


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Mulling it over

It was a bit of a rubbish week last week. Although I managed to finish my first scarf by Friday and am now wearing it. I ran out of wool to make the length I wanted for a scarf… but the wool is out of stock, so instead, I sewed it up and made a cowl :)

I guess I have to learn to do that more often. Be prepared to change course more readily. Take action to make things better even when they don’t turn out the way I would have hoped.

It’s all been coming to a head recently. Somehow things are a bit more intense and rubbish than usual. Although, let me get one thing straight right now… I’d not swap being me, for anything else. Some days I don’t even have the energy to feel depressed. But those moments bring me through to a clarity afterwards that I have to pounce on and get creative with!

I’ve been feeding off some of your incredible posts lately, and they are helping me to get some of my thoughts in order. Here’s a couple I found inspiring at just the right time – and by inspiring, I mean, they challenged me personally and helped me to take a step back and a deep breath:

Be happy in the moment, this moment is your life. The title says it all. I’m not going to get all self-help and “hippie” (quoting Sarah) on you here. I was simply reminded that now is my life. Not yesterday, not tomorrow. Right now. And I have to do something with now, or it’s going to leave me.

Morning walk on the Detmold countryside. Wendy took me on a beautiful walk through her lovely photos. It’s the kind of walk that I relish and haven’t been on for a while. She shared some of her own thoughts on life at this point in time. She ends with “Carry on…” Enough said. Life never stops, you’re either going backwards or forwards.  Sometimes it’s the former, sometimes the latter… either way, we carry on for as long as we have the strength to.

Apple, by Addia

Apple, by Addia

And. I have been meaning to feature this photo for some time now. It’s by the lovely Addia who was so sweet as to send me the original and allow me to feature it here. I feel happy every time I look at it. I just love the intense colour of the apple. But it’s so exposed, vulnerable, all open and half-eaten. I guess its fragility and intensity against the gritty grey surface that it is lying on is what makes it so beautiful for me.

I feel so alive when I see something so beautiful.

So here we go again, I’m rooting for you to go out there and keep on keeping on too! Have a good week.


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Frivolity and friendship (2)

This is my second award nomination post in a series of four this season :) Here’s the first, and here’s one I did earlier

And here’s a little snippet of my life today: I stumbled across this song during the Paralympic Games. I was drafting a post with the lyrics in, but hey, just check them out yourself on the YT page. It’s a super duper cheesy song and I have some days when I like cheesy. this is lemonade is about giving things another try, one more time, and another time, and again…and again. Even after you have given up. Just one more time.

Forget what lies behind you
Heaven walks beside you
You got to give it one more try
One more time

So here’s another thank you to the lovely Laura Williams of North Highlands Art who nominated me for the One Lovely Blog award. One of the wonderful blogging friends out there, who inspire me! Go check out her blog and her wonderful talent that I mentioned here.

  • One Lovely Blog Awardyou and mie – I’ve a million things pinned that I want to make from Cherie’s crafty ideas!
  • Shared joy is a double joy – Addia’s heart-warming photo blog full of lovely snapshots from life in Sweden. And there’s more to see on her Pinterest boards too!
  • Carr party of five – Lis is one witty, bubbly, lady who writes quirky and cheering posts!

 

The one thing I love most about blogging is the people behind the blogs that I have “met”. All the bloggers I am mentioning in my awards nominations I have held conversations with in the comments, by email, twitter or even on Pinterest. I am going to be presumptuous and call them friends. Having just passed the sixth month mark of blogging, and having falling off the blog wagon for the month just gone, I can say that this friends-making is my biggest incentive for writing and writing again!

Hello friends! Thanks for reading, for sharing your inspiration and for your continuing support :D


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Phew…

I’m back! Well, I’m feeling a bit tentative, as I’m going to have to adjust my schedule a little again from Saturday. However, I want to be back, so I’m here!

I’ve actually climbed back into relative normality for almost two weeks now, since falling off the blog-wagon, but just could not bring myself to write. Instead, I took solace in catching up with the hundreds of posts that I’d missed over the month. It’s got to the point where I just could not wait to get back into writing – I’ve missed being a part of the community and making my contribution to the conversations.

It’s been too long. When I was in the middle of catching up with things, this cartoon stopped me in my tracks:

What’s your Question, Honey? By Matt Gajdoš

What’s your Question, Honey? By Matt Gajdoš – featured with permission

I’m sure this was actually a portrait of me, whilst faced with the prospect of blogging again. It’s from one of my favourite bloggers, Matt Gajdoš whose blog I featured here. It made me smile and feel that I wasn’t alone, even if it might mean my peers are the elementary school kids that Matt teaches. Hey, if they can do it, so can I right?

And then, talking about inspiration, there is Laura Williams, a super talented artist who draws the most beautiful portraits of horses and dogs (here‘s one of her latest that I love – it’s not even finished and it looks amazing already.) Note, she’s just started accepting orders for commissioned pet portraits for Christmas. Really, do take a look. I love how her portraits are so soulful and alive. I always feel as though I can reach through the screen to stroke the animals and they will respond! Not only is Laura very gifted, she’s also most generous. She nominated me for the One Lovely Blog Award whilst I was away doing nothing to my blog. I’m so thankful for your encouragement, Laura!

I have been owing an award post for a while now, since Matt of the above nominated me irrationally for a few at the same time. (I can’t believe that post was way back in June…uh…sorry for the delay Matt, and thank you again!) I’m sure there is some big award rule out there that says you can’t do that, but I’m not going to complain.

I thought writing about other blogs would be a great way to return to writing, because the community of lovely blogging people and the great stuff out there is what makes me want to keep on keeping on. So I’m going to start a real awards train – I’ll spend 5 posts nominating blogs I enjoy that for me, can be described by those awards, starting hopefully from next week (because if I don’t hit publish in the next five minutes, I will never get started again!) I’ll be breaking every rule in the book in the process as I don’t have anything exciting to write about me, and I’m not going to look up each award’s rules for how many people you’re allowed to nominate…I’m going to wing it!

Happy weekend! Thanks for having me back and for reading even though I’ve been so quiet. I truly truly appreciate it :)


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Olympics Special : Dear visitor…

Welcome to London! The first athletes taking part in the London 2012 Olympics arrived at the beginning of this week, and huge lorries ferrying the press packs and their paraphernalia are blocking up all the roads, all amid the security row taking place in Westminster. Who’s to blame? How did it all come to this, just a couple of weeks before the games, when there were seven years during which preparations could have been made?

But, dear friends, fret not. London is well prepared. What with regular helicopter flights under cover of darkness, missile sites dotted around the main stadia and plenty of signage designed to empower you when your coach driver doesn’t know where s/he’s driving you on the controversial Olympic superhighway, you’ll be fine. And believe me, nothing has been left to chance. We are prepared to the point of having rehearsed the one skill Londoners are all born with: the art of queuing.

OlympicsSpecial - thisislemonade.wordpress.com

As Londoners, we live well in chaos, so I decided I would do my bit to help you see beyond it and reassure you about attending the Olympic Games if you are visiting our beautiful capital for the first time. Perhaps you have been reading recent press reports about four-hour queues at Heathrow and are considering whether or not to request a refund of your Games ticket or to exchange your flight for one to warmer climes. Allow me to give you a preview of our wonderful Olympic city. As you can see from the photograph above, we are a generous nation. Someone with insider knowledge of the whereabouts of a secret queue-free passage to the opening ceremony decided to give us a wink and a nod. As I am a typical, sharing Londoner, I am posting the tip in case you missed it.

Now without further ado, it is with great pride that I present to you the safest doors on the London Underground system – otherwise know as the “Tube”. In some cities, the presence of graffiti may insinuate an element of danger – the threat of unrestrained self-expression, perhaps even over-enthusiastic boredom. But never fear.

Just above the aforementioned door, is a plethora of information. At your first meeting with this noticeboard, you may find yourself in a minor state of breathlessness. But you need not panic if you made a mad dash for it and only just managed to squeeze into the Tube carriage as the doors were closing. You are in the prime position to access everything you need to know about travelling on the Tube. And you will quickly learn never to jump hastily onto a train again. Please pay attention to the following scenario, with careful reference to the above photo.

It is possible that your spontaneous and successful dive onto an overcrowded train triggered a dangerous passenger emergency during the brief instance of which, you most certainly should not be found smoking. The likelihood is that you trapped your rucksack in the doorway thereby causing the train driver to reopen the doors and make an announcement to all passengers, warning them against doing what you just did. This inevitably results in a delay, thus unleashing the combined fury of the native London commuter monster onto yourself. But fear not.

The emergency alarm is right next to the door, just above the average eye level, in case you should miss it as you become mesmerised by the beautifully worded signs around it. If you are unlucky, you may look where I just advised you to look, and find a sign taunting you and telling you that the alarm is located next to the door opposite. You may look in vain, as it will possibly be obscured behind the head of an unfortunately tall and uncomfortably contorted fellow passenger. But shall we trouble ourselves unnecessarily? Best not. In such an unlikely situation, should you become overwhelmed and thus less able to stand, you would not be able to reach up to pull an alarm anyway and there are dedicated seats available for those who find themselves in such a condition.

Do bear in mind, not to settle too comfortably in your seat however. Should it transpire that another traveller was hapless enough as to have activated the emergency alarm, s/he may need your seat more than you. Regulate your breathing as the train driver announces that “the train is being held on the platform due to a passenger alarm being activated”. A silent Londoner does not indicate a happy Londoner. Prepare yourself to witness the glares, the rolling eyes, even an involuntary hiss or a fuming grunt.

Do your utmost to avoid causing a delay during the Olympics. The likelihood is, before you considered making your small contribution, the commuters around you were already running late due to signal failures, leaves on the track, adverse weather conditions or somebody deciding that strolling along the track instead of getting onto a train might be more likely to get them to work on time. That is before throwing into the mix, the extra zillion people expected to turn up for a few weeks to watch athletes competing for speed.

Remember, nobody actually hates you.

On a side note, using the emergency alarm as a support for standing upright invokes a penalty in much the same way as travelling without a valid ticket. It is polite to avoid committing both of these offences, even if you feel safely smothered under someone’s armpit.

Of course. Should you invoke a penalty fare, you may become once again overwhelmed, and need to lower a window for ventilation. Please however, be aware that this does not constitute an emergency of the kind that requires the opening of the door, ever.

I hope that this post will reassure you that London is an extremely safe and welcoming city. If in any doubt, remember the great British maxim:

Disclaimer: The above post is not to be taken in all seriousness. Please be advised that under no circumstances should you attempt to access the secret passageway to the Olympic Games.

In all earnestness, if you are indeed a visitor, please be as warmly welcomed in my city as on my blog. London is full of people from all over the world, and I suspect that is part of the reason why nothing runs immaculately. But then I wouldn’t change anything if it meant forfeiting the city’s mixing pot of ideas and dreams that is always brimming over… If you hear someone speaking a language other than English, they are just as likely to be a Londoner as they are to be a tourist. I love living in London, for all its foibles. And hey, we paid (and will be paying indefinitely) for the Olympics so we might as well try to enjoy them (I’m saying this ahead of the ranting I will no doubt be doing in a week or so). I’ll probably catch some of it on the telly if I don’t spend most of it trying to get to and from work.

Do you have any Olympic plans? Will you watch the opening ceremony? Will you be following any of the sports or rooting for any of the athletes?


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Legacy

For some time now, I have been a quiet admirer of a certain man. He was never a friend, in fact he was a business owner and I was a regular patron. Unlike many of his peers, he seemed to make a conscious effort to connect meaningfully with the people who contributed to his success – his loyal customers. I admired his skill in conversation and the thoughtfulness he put into building relationships, the confidence his staff had in him and the ease with which they worked in his presence. Yes, it was business, but infused with a certain unassuming altruism.

Yesterday I learned of his passing. I knew that he was seriously ill, so I can’t say the news came as a shock. But I was surprised that it affected me so much and that I am so deeply saddened. He was far from old. In my memory he is wearing a favourite blue checked shirt, his eyes are creased at the laughter lines with just a little twinkle in them and he is engaged in lively small talk. I remember his mannerisms and voice well, even though I did not see him in over a year. We only ever had brief encounters, but this one human being made a deep impression on me.

DandelionsWe only live once. We cross paths with many people only once in our lives and for a fleeting moment. And yet, we have the potential to influence greatly, without even being aware of it ourselves. I do not believe this man ever cared to think that I would sit here thinking of him. We played no real part in each other’s lives.

But then I think of the countless times when a small kind gesture has suddenly altered how I have felt in an instant. And a simple word of appreciation or a colleague’s offer to make me a cup of tea, can often be enough to give me just that added buoyancy to make it through the day.

So in the same vein, thank you for those kind comments that you put at the bottom of my posts. They are very special and uplifting. Just as deeply as words can wound, so they can also heal, inspire and propel someone on to do more than they ever imagined possible…

Has a virtual stranger ever had such an impact on you?


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Oriental style chicken, coriander and sesame salad

This salad is beautifully aromatic and makes me really happy every time I eat it. I’m dedicating this post to a wonderful family friend who is a talented cook and generous host. I seldom get to see her nowadays, but I think of her often especially when I am in the kitchen. She taught me the method I use below to cook the chicken. I love that it is energy saving, and I can leave the kitchen for an hour while it works its magic. You can use it for a variety of dishes where you might otherwise steam the chicken. If you prefer to substitute portions for the whole chicken, I would suggest thighs for their succulence. They could easily be cut into strips and pan-fried as a quicker alternative.

Oriental style chicken, coriander and sesame saladThe salad can be served with fluffy long grain or basmati rice and a side of sugar snaps or broccoli.

I have used relatively rough measurements, as much of it depends on the size of the chicken and your taste preference. I love coriander and sesame, so I use lots of it. The preparation and cooking together take up to two hours in total.

Oriental style chicken, coriander and sesame salad

  • 1 chicken (corn fed if you can get it)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 5 cups water (enough to cover chicken breast-down in pot)
  • salt
  • handful of sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 cup of coriander leaves (cilantro), roughly chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • sesame oil
  • the juice of ½-1 lime
  • soy sauce

Wash the chicken carefully paying attention to the cavity area and removing any clumps of fat. Put the bay leaves and peppercorns in a big pot and place the whole chicken in the pot breast-down. Pour in the water, turn to a high heat and bring to the boil. Boil on a medium heat for a further 5 minutes for a small chicken to 10 minutes for a large one, keeping the pot covered. Then turn off the heat without removing the lid. Set a timer for 60 minutes and leave to steep.

Put your feet up with a cuppa tea and a slice of yummy cake, and read some nice blogs or do something else inspiring.

After 60 minutes, put the chicken back on a high heat and boil for the same amount of time as before. If there is still pink meat, you may need to boil for a little longer. Drain off any water from the chicken back into the pot carefully and put the chicken on a plate. (For ideas on making the nutritious stock go further, keep reading to the end!) Then rub the skin of the chicken gently with some salt. Set aside to rest.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle comfortably, tear off the flesh into strips no thicker than 1cm and place in a serving dish or bowl. Add the chopped coriander and the sesame seeds to the chicken and toss together, seasoning with the remaining ingredients to taste. Serve immediately or chilled.

Oriental style chicken, coriander and sesame saladAfter removing the meat from the bone you can return the chicken carcass to the stock, adding some root vegetables, and boil up a lovely broth accompaniment. If you are serving the salad with rice, don’t pass up on the opportunity to make it subtly fragrant by using the chicken stock instead of water.

For a truly cool summery twist, you could add some strips of cucumber to the salad, shredded with a vegetable peeler. I have to say that this salad improves overnight in the fridge if you can wait to eat it. I have also been known to attack leftovers with some mayonnaise or Colman’s English mustard for a flavoursome sandwich filling. I find it’s really versatile and I hope that you enjoy it!

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